My natural tendency is to be critical and cynical. Knowing that about myself, I’m trying to avoid being openly critical of others with this blog. At the same time, I want to be able to discuss things which I find fascinating. So here’s a little music rant!
Catchy Without Being Worth Being Caught
During the last session, they started playing a song titled “God’s Great Dance Floor.” Immediately, the song caught my attention due to it’s catchy music, infectious dance beat, and solid melody. However, possibly more important than the likability of the music, was the strangeness of the lyrics and spectacle. While the song only contains two verses, a chorus, and a bridge, this live performance goes on for 8 minutes. Throughout the video, all of the singers are jumping up and down with excitement. The last four minutes simply repeat the same line over and over, but it’s briefly interrupted by a literally a mariachi walking up to a microphone and playing a trumpet solo. You can watch the video here.
A SECOND CHANCE
To be brief (…in this already overly long rant):
- The lyrics are 75% different
- The odd lyrics are used in a different context and make sense
- The song has a very clear theme
- The structure of the song is entirely different
- The song feels like a lyrical and musical journey
Waiting for You Be my rescue Find me and bring me out alive I will surrender
The simple chorus, which is slightly musically different than Tomlin’s, goes like this:
Back to the start where You found me I give You my heart again Take everything I’m all I can bring I’m coming home again
The lyrics make subtle references to the parable of the prodigal son. At the start of the song, the lyrics are from the perspective of a prodigal who is at a point of brokeness with nothing to offer. The person is broken and waiting for God’s rescue.
Up to this point the music, has been very light and subtle. At around 3 minutes and 30 seconds, the song transitions to the bridge. The music begins to swell and build up while the lyrically it shifts to to present tense verbs:
I’m coming back To the start, to the start I’m coming back to You
Between the lyrics and the music, we feel like we truly are on a journey back. Just before 5 minutes into the song, we reach a line which is only repeated once in Smith’s version. It’s the transition into the final section of the song:
You’ll never stop loving us, No matter how far we run You’ll never give up on us All of Heaven shouts “Let the future begin!”
Given the context of the previous 5 minutes of the song, the meaning is very clear. The prodigal has returned home and he’s thanking God for his never ending love. As he returns home, he realizes a new future is about to begin. At this point the music once again shifts, now to a dance beat.
The song ends by repeating:
I feel alive, I come alive I am alive on God’s great dance floor
By this point in the song, we’ve gone on a journey from a place of total brokeness back to the life found in Christ. While I might not personally choose the metaphor, “God’s great dance floor,” it makes sense in the song.
It’s a lyrically and musically consistent song which is rather powerful. It starts at a place of longing for a change. Then, it spends time in present tense action returning home. Finally, we arrive at a new destination.
Music Rant | I Don’t Get It
Tomlin’s version of the song borrows the catch phrases and dance beats, but misses the entire point of the song. The verses fill space until we can get to the upbeat chorus and bridge. But lyrically, the chorus and bridge aren’t earned because the verses don’t build up to their message. There’s no future to begin. We aren’t contrasting a past with a future. We haven’t arrived at a new place where we come alive.
I don’t want to get into too much speculation, but there aren’t very many explanations for why Tomlin would change the lyrics and arrangement. The most obvious reason is that he wanted to make a more streamlined and mainstream song that people can dance to. If it takes 5 minutes to get to the dance section, that’s not much of an upbeat dancing song. But if we get to upbeat parts in 45 seconds, that’s a dance song. But why not just write another dance song? Why cannibalize your own song and sacrifice it’s integrity?
UPDATE – OCTOBER 2013